Washi Wonders in Gokayama

Hands-on Japanese paper-making experience

By Alena Eckelmann    - 2 min read

At the Gokayama Washi no Sato, or “Gokayama Japanese Paper Village”, you can not only admire and buy washi and washi-made items, but you can make washi yourself!

Washi is Japanese hand-made paper. While there are many places in Japan where washi is made, the Etchu Washi, Japanese paper made in Gokayama, has actually been designated as one of Japan’s Traditional Crafts. Etchu is the old name of present-day Toyama where paper-making has a history of over 1,000 years.

The history of Etchu washi goes back to the Heian Period of Japanese history (8th to 12th century). During the Edo Period (the Japanese feudal period running from the 16th to the mid 19th century) washi was used by the locals to pay their annual tribute to the lords of the Kaga Clan who ruled over this area.

At the Washi Museum you can learn about the history of paper-making and admire beautiful washi papers on display. Of course you can also buy sheets of washi, as well as many washi-made items. It is hard to choose from the many interesting washi products. The colours and patterns of the washi paper invite to purchase a sheet or two, provided you can make up your mind which ones to take.

Until the 1950s washi was an essential part of everyday life of Japanese households. For example, sliding screens were covered with washi paper and lamp shades were made of washi.

In the old days every family in the area was involved in washi-making but in recent years the number of washi masters, people who know how to make washi, became less and less. This is why the local community set up this Center in order to preserve the craft and heritage and to pass on the skills to future generations. The community even grows the mulberry trees from which they harvest the fibre used for washi making here.

The Gokayama Washi no Sato is located at the Michi no eki Taira, a short drive away from Gokayama UNESCO Site (8km from Ainokura, 16km from Suganuma).

If you visit the Gokayama area, then stopping by here will deepen your experience of Toyama’s beautiful countryside and its rich cultural heritage.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Elizabeth S 2 years ago
I got hooked on Japanese paper through origami and crafts. The textures and colors of these papers are fascinating.
Bonson Lam 3 years ago
Washi is a truly one of Japan’s treasures. I had the opportunity to meet one of Japan’s national living treasures, and was able to work with him to promote this work, which is now exhibited in places as far as the Louvre and the Smithsonian. https://en.japantravel.com/kyoto/rakushikan/223